Germany

Georgia On My Mind

Posted by Cutler on August 13, 2008
France, Georgia, Germany, Great Power Rivalry, Russia / 1 Comment

If I were blogging these days–which I am not–I would want to take up some old themes about the role of Georgia (along with Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Iran and Turkey) in US-led efforts to circumvent Russia in the export of Caspian oil and natural gas to Western Europe and to Israel.  (Note recent reports that Israeli was involved in the initial Georgian military offensive into South Ossetia on August 8.)

After all, the US-Russian proxy war in Georgia is a perfect example of Great Power Rivalry.

But I’m not blogging these days.

But if I were, I might also note that the US has been coordinating closely with its man on the Seine, Nicolas Sarkozy.  Formally, the French president is being consulted as the key US interlocutor because France currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union.  And yet, I wonder whether there isn’t something more to it.  Yes, Sarkozy is the most pro-American French leader since… well, since Gilbert de Lafayette.  But the flip side of the pull toward Sarkozy is the “problem” of Angela Merkel.  No, I am not talking about the back rub.  I’m talking about the relatively cozy relationship between the Germans and the Russians.

And where is Angela Merkel on the question of Georgia?  Ask Moscow.  Back in March, AFP reported:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel signalled on Monday that she opposes granting NATO membership to former Soviet republics Ukraine and Georgia.

“A country should become a NATO member not only when its temporary political leadership is in favour but when a significant percentage of the population supports membership,” Merkel said in Berlin in reference to Ukraine and Georgia.

“Countries that are themselves entangled in regional conflicts, can in my opinion not become members,” she added after talks with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday during a visit by Merkel to Moscow that NATO was aiming to replace the United Nations and warned this raised the potential for conflict.

The White House is already signaling a willingness to engage Russia militarily in Georgia.  But it might prove quite awkward for Bush to have to “save Europe” from a future of Russian energy blackmail if Germany seems uninterested in being “saved.”

German Gas

Posted by Cutler on March 07, 2007
Germany, Great Power Rivalry, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia / No Comments

So many enemies, so little time.

It cannot be easy to be Dick Cheney.  When your list of enemies gets long enough, you are inevitably asked to compromise and support the lesser evil.

For Cheney, the challenge is to keep both Iran and Russia in the crosshairs at the same time.

Take Germany, for example.

The German appetite for natural gas makes Russia and Iran attractive trading partners.

The Russian option is championed by Gazprom subsidiary Nord Stream and has the active support of ex-German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

As suggested by an article in Business Week, the former chancellor–now on the Gazprom payroll–retains influence within the Merkel administration.

The German ex-chancellor caused a furore at home when he took the lucrative Gazprom job in 2005 just weeks after brokering the pipeline deal at government level. Current chancellor Angela Merkel has backed the pipe, but has frostier relations with Russia’s Mr Putin, once described by Mr Schroeder as a “crystal-clear democrat”…

But the ex-chancellor also showed glimpses of the canny pragmatism that characterised his foreign policy while still in power and which continues to function inside the German government in the person of foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier – Mr Schroeder’s ex-cabinet chief.

The “canny pragmatism” mentioned above refers to Schroeder’s question, implicitly directed at Vice President Cheney:

Where are the alternatives to Russia?” Mr Schroeder asked in the context of soaring EU gas imports, mentioning Algeria, Libya, Qatar, Nigeria and international pariah Iran. “You have to think if this would be politically better than Russia. My view…is that as far as security and stability of supply goes, Russia is the best option.”

Schroeder’s reference to Iran is not merely an exercise in hypothetical speculation.  Spiegel Online reports that the German energy giant E.on is in talks with Iran to buy natural gas.  The Iranian initiative is depicted as a move to break German dependence on Russia.

German energy giant E.on has confirmed it is in talks with Iran to buy natural gas — although Germany is currently discussing further sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program with its allies.

Germany has for years been talking about diversifying its natural gas supplies to reduce over-reliance on Russia. But the solution currently being considered by German energy utility E.on may end up being just as controversial — the company wants to buy gas from Iran.

Berlin has become increasingly skeptical about the reliability of Russia as an energy supplier as Gazprom, the Kremlin-controlled gas company in charge of most of Siberia’s vast reserves, has repeatedly flexed its muscles in price spats with Russia’s neighbors. But E.on’s interest in Iran comes just as the international community is discussing further sanctions on Tehran for its controversial nuclear program.

So, Vice President Cheney: Is Russia the lesser evil?  Or is Iran?

Cheney’s answer (like Clinton’s): BTC.

One can only hope that the gas arrives in time for the American Eagle to free the German Adler from the clutches of the Russian Bear and the Persian Lion.

What is Kazakhstan’s inner animal, anyway?  I don’t remember Borat ever having mentioned it…